Looking for land began in earnest when I relocated to the Pacific Northwest from the Southwest. Until then, I wasn’t thrilled to investigate sight-unseen property hundreds of miles distant through a catalog or newspaper. At one point, we were sitting in Los Angeles studying land sales in Oregon. It didn’t take long to realize that if we were going to be serious about buying land, we had better move closer to our destination.
My original notion centered centered on land as an escape from our present home. At that time, the land had to be remote. Who needed a road or electricity to the place? We’d gladly hike or canoe to our Shangri-la. However, remote didn’t have to mean primitive. If a house or barn or tractor came with the deal, we wouldn’t mind! We had few plans on what we’d do once we bought the acreage, but agreed to protect much of the parcel as a wildlife refuge. We were unaware of conservation easements in those days.
I set up camp at Oregon State University and hoped my studies wouldn’t interfere with finding my future land home. Searching for property started out as a pleasant and inexpensive avocation. My feet enjoyed tramping through magnificent tucked away areas. I enjoyed the comfort of being chauffeured to the “For Sale” natural places by a realtor and I received a broker’s education on the whys and ways of rural real estate. This was all free for the asking, while at Oregon State University for a lesser education, I was paying an arm and a leg.
As a potential buyer, I learned that the best time to view the land as during the worse season, winter. The realtors all agreed: if, due to terrible road conditions, you cna’t driver closer than three miles from your property boundary or notice as your teeth clatter, that’s there’s 12 feet of snow in March, you’ll soon know whether you should become better acquainted with the place.
One forthright realtor taught me that rural property constantly changed from being a haven for the poor while the rich lived in cities to the reverse. Today, urban living accommodates all classes while the buyer of country property either knows how to play the real estate market or has some saving in the bank. Close to Lyle, Washington, I heard land sold for a reasonable $500 – $1,000 (at the time). Though Oregon’s progressive land use laws made it difficult to buy less than 20 acres, across the Columbia River in Washington state, five acres and independence were available for little down payment. A poor man could be king.
After countless land tours looking at property that did not fit our hopeful images, it happened. After spending hours observing, listening, then consulting about 40 wild acres near (you’ll love this name) Deadwood, Oregon, my buddy and I looked at each other and without speaking knew that we could rest our search here. We sped to the realtor’s office at breakneck speed, my VW Bug speeding along at its maximum 45 mph, but alas it was not fast enough. “I’m sorry. I sold that piece yesterday. Want to see something else?” A bitter disappointment. My dream had been snatched away for a little while longer.